What separates great athletes from good athletes? Great athletes have worked to build a smarter and more skilled body. They have developed the ability to move in all directions with swift and coordinated movements. In addition to having a greater understanding of their specific sport, elite athletes have killer instincts, exceptional reaction skills, more strength, incredible speed, passion, mental toughness and last but not least, a very well developed training plan.
Becoming an elite athlete is a long-term process and requires a well-designed plan which allows for long term development. Over the past decade, sports conditioning has had significant growth and for good reason; it works. Athletes competing at high levels are all getting faster, jumping higher and becoming stronger. Competition is getting harder and having the winning edge requires more than just practice. A sprinter can train three times a day until exhaustion but without having learned the correct way to run, the athlete’s performance is going to be restricted. Sports require technical training and hard work to make significant improvements.
Traditional fitness training is great for reaching basic fitness goals but athletes require sport specific training in order to fine tune their abilities. All sports conditioning plans should demonstrate an understanding of growth and development, meet specific sport requirements, use appropriate training methodologies and be planned out. Good conditioning plans will give athletes the coordinated movement, full-body strength and overall enhanced body mechanics required to compete at an elite level.
So when is the right time to start sports conditioning? As mentioned, conditioning plans should take into account growth and development. Youth athletes begin training as young as 7 & 8 years old. Athletes between the ages of 8 and 15 are at the most coachable age. They want to listen and learn at this stage in their development and it is a great time to establish routine and good practice habits. At this age, conditioning plans put more focus on technical skills, core, and the importance of dynamic warm-ups. It is also important to establish rest and recovery routines early on. Youth athletes should have two days off each week at minimum. This is also a good time to begin forming a sports medicine team; connect with a physician, nutritionist and conditioning specialist.
Athletes between the ages 12 and 18 are going through a lot of change very quickly. At this stage sports conditioning should focus on the refinement and precision of skills. Athletes should begin to increase intensity and work on building mental strength. This is also a good time to add more strength training and nutrition planning. Using more movement and balance drills will also be important to help offset changes in weight and body’s center of gravity. At this age athletes should be taking off at least one day a week.
Between the ages of 15 and 25 it is time to focus on potential and determine realistic goals. Conditioning specialists will focus on developing strength and control in this age range as well as encourage individual style. Athletes should also focus on eliminating all muscular imbalances in order to avoid injury.
Athletes of all ages can benefit from sports conditioning and the earlier you can start the better. Without proper training, physical skills will crumble under duress and fatigue and regardless of whether or not athletes plan to compete at an elite level, the right training will help with injury prevention. If you have questions about sports specific training for yourself or your youth athlete call to speak with one of our conditioning specialists at 480.689.5519.